Brunell, Moss keep solid connection

Chemistry between Redskins' QB and receiver a key part of success

October 14, 2005|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

ASHBURN, Va. -- In the NFL archives, Mark Brunell's pass to Santana Moss late in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos will be recorded as a 32-yard gain. To Washington Redskins quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, the pass is a sign of the pair's evolution.

In a steady rain on first-and-10 from Washington's 48-yard line, Brunell lofted a pass over Broncos middle linebacker Al Wilson to Moss, who was pushed out of bounds by safety John Lynch at Denver's 20.

Although the drive produced just a field goal in the 21-19 loss, Musgrave continued to marvel at Brunell's pass to Moss.

"That was incredible, especially under those conditions," Musgrave said. "They're in sync out there. It's great to know where a guy's going to be. And then you can cut it loose and know that he's going to end up where the ball lands. You can see that they're getting better and better at that every week."

Every week increases the evolving chemistry between the 35-year-old Brunell and the 26-year-old Moss.

In four games, Brunell and Moss have revived memories of Redskins quarterback-receiver tandems Joe Theismann and Art Monk, and Sonny Jurgensen and Charley Taylor.

Half of the offense's 12 plays of 20 yards or more have been produced by the duo. Moss leads the team in receptions with 23 and is tied for the league lead in third-down catches with 12.

Brunell said he has begun to rely on Moss in the same way he depended on Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell when all three were Jacksonville Jaguars.

"You've got to have a [go-to] guy," Brunell said. "Every good offense has a receiver like that. Hopefully, that will continue, and hopefully, we'll even get better in that area."

Moss thinks his rapport with Brunell is typical of any quarterback-receiver combination.

"It's just about going out there and making plays," Moss said. "I think once you go out there and play with a quarterback, any receiver's going to have a chemistry. I think all of the receivers have a good chemistry with whoever is throwing the ball because we have to practice with him."

The emergence of Brunell and Moss has silenced the critics who questioned both players for different reasons. After Brunell had career lows in completion percent (49.8) and passer rating (63.9) while compiling a 3-6 record as a starter last season, many thought Brunell's best days were over.

Moss averaged 18.6 yards a catch last season with the New York Jets, but others wondered whether the Redskins overpaid when they signed the 5-foot-10 receiver who caught just 45 passes for 838 yards and five touchdowns to a six-year, $31 million deal that included $11 million in guaranteed money.

Brunell has been steady, completing 56.9 percent of his passes for 909 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions. Moss ranks eighth in the league in yards (458) and is tied for 12th in the NFC in receptions.

Moss said, however, that it's too early to focus on his statistics.

"I like to do what I do and when it's all said and done, then we can talk about it," he said. "That's basically me. I'm always going to be the guy that does it before he talks about it."

The connection between Brunell and Moss has become evident in practice, where Musgrave credited Moss' speed and route-running with building trust between him and Brunell.

"I think he knows where Santana's going to be, and I think that comes from them working over the summer and in practice," Musgrave said. "You can see in practice that the balls are there in time. When Santana whips his head around, the ball sticks right there in his facemask."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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